We're reminiscing about the greatest movie ever made about carnivorous subterranean worms

By Alex Heigl
Updated January 19, 2015 06:15 PM

Twenty-five years ago this week (Jan. 19, 1990), the greatest film ever made about carnivorous subterranean worms hit theaters.

Tremors didn’t make a big splash in theaters, considering its release was during the awards season dumping ground of January. (Also it’s a movie about carnivorous subterranean worms.)

But the film found a second life on VHS and cable, and it has become a beloved cult hit, spawning many sequels. So let’s take a trip back to Perfection Valley, where it all began.

Wanna Write a Great Screenplay? Study Tremors
In a Reddit thread titled, “What is Your Favorite Kevin Bacon Movie and Why Is It Tremors,” one user describes how his advanced screenwriting professor described Tremors as “the greatest example of classic American screenwriting technique I have ever seen.” Essentially, that breaks down to linear narrative propulsion, clear cause-and-effect chains, and developments caused by characters reacting to circumstances. Don’t go to film school; watch Tremors.

Kevin Bacon Was Not a Fan

Bacon has since come around, but for a long time, he considered Tremors a low point in his career. “I was in a tailspin – I considered it to be a tailspin. And I’ll never forget, I was on 87th and Broadway with my wife and we were talking about, you know, where my career was at and I was running out of money, I had a baby on the way and all this kind of stuff was happening. And I had a breakdown, you know, just anxiety attack. And I said ‘I can’t believe I’m doing a f—ing movie about underground worms!’ And I think that was probably a low point.” – Kevin Bacon on Tremors, in 2013

Reba McEntire’s First Film Role

That’s all. Just another gift Tremors has given us.

Tied to Family Ties

Michael Gross, who played the gun-happy Burt, came directly to Tremors from Family Ties, literally: His first day of shooting the film was one day after the sitcom wrapped. Gross’s conservative survivalist character in the film is the polar opposite of his suburban dad on Family Ties.

Burt Brought His Own Car
Burt’s 1989 GMC Jimmy was Gross’s actual vehicle. He bought it in 1989, and kept it until 1997, at which point he bought another GMC Jimmy, which he then kept until 2006.

The Monsters Are Filled with Pumpkin

Writer/director S.S. Wilson explains what the monsters’ guts are made from: “The most common items are pieces of foam rubber, nylon stockings (they make good intestines) filled with various things. Sometimes they use food products like canned pumpkin. All of these things get mixed with their graboid blood formula developed specially for Tremors.”

Perfection Valley Is Not a Real Place, Sadly

The film was shot in Lone Pine, California, and the town was specially constructed in about two months for the film, along with some of the rocks the gang use to escape the monsters. Regrettably, it’s all gone now, having been torn down, rebuilt or otherwise destroyed in the intervening 25 years.

There’s Another Tremors On the Way

After four films and a short-lived television series, the franchise paused for 10 or so years. But Gross is returning to the series with new costar Jamie Kennedy for a sequel set in South Africa. Filming began in September 2014, and it’s scheduled for a 2015 release.

There’s One Degree of Separation Between Tremors and Jack Kerouac

Victor Wong, a character actor who had roles in similarly-beloved films like 3 Ninjas and Big Trouble in Little China played the ill-fated Walter Chang in Tremors. In real life, Wong studied art under Mark Rothko and had his work exhibited at San Francisco’s City Lights Bookstore, which led to him befriending Beat poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti and meeting Jack Kerouac, who wrote about their meeting in Big Sur. (Wong’s character’s name is “Arthur Ma.”)

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